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Colorado uses humor in campaign against stoned driving

Published March 8, 2014 6:01 pm

Marijuana • The television ads target misconceptions.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Goldon, Colo. • A stoned dude appears to have successfully hung a big-screen television in his living room. Satisfied with his work, he ambles over to grab some munchies.

Just as he's about to dig in, the television falls to the floor, and he looks on with a puzzled look on his face.

A few words then appear on the screen informing viewers that installing a new television while stoned is legal but "driving to get a new one isn't."

That is one of three commercials produced by the Colorado Department of Transportation that were released Thursday as part of an education campaign aimed at informing drivers about the dangers of stoned driving.

CDOT's efforts are to head off misconceptions about the state's venture into legalizing certain levels of marijuana possession and sale. Namely, the state and police want to dispel notions that pot produces better, more skillful drivers.

"We heard repeatedly that people thought marijuana didn't impact their driving ability, and some believed it actually made them a better driver," said CDOT spokeswoman Amy Ford.

The "Drive High, Get a DUI" campaign takes a neutral stance on legalization but focuses on the impaired-driving law in Colorado, Ford said.

All the commercials feature someone trying to perform a simple task while feeling the effects of pot smoking. One spot shows a guy trying to light a grill without a propane connection. Another has a basketball player attempting to shoot a free throw.

It's all OK until the star of each commercial tries to get behind the wheel. That's when he breaks the law.

"We certainly are trying to be humorous, but we also wanted to drive home the point that it's certainly legal to use marijuana in Colorado but it's not legal to get behind the wheel and drive," Ford said.

The "Drive High, Get a DUI" campaign specifically targets men ages 21-34, who tend to have the highest number of DUIs.

Besides television ads, there will also be a widespread outreach to rental car companies and dispensaries to inform tourists and marijuana users about marijuana driving laws in Colorado, Ford said.

The need for education about pot and driving was apparent after CDOT conducted a September phone survey of 770 Coloradans, Ford said.

Those who had used pot in the past year were half as likely to think a person would get a DUI if they drove within an hour after using pot compared to those who had never used marijuana, according to the survey.

Also on Thursday, the Colorado State Patrol graduated 20 new Drug Recognition Experts, who are trained to specifically spot and test someone suspected of driving under the influence of drugs.

By the end of 2015, Colorado hopes to have 300 DREs working in the state's precincts and sheriff's offices, said Darrell Lingk, CDOT director of the office of transportation safety.

"These officers have taken time out from their regular duties to take part in this training for their communities in hopes they will keep them safer," said Lingk.

Elan Nelson, vice chair of the Medical Marijuana Industry Group Board, helped CDOT put together its campaign. "We wanted to get involved early to help form policy and give our input," said Nelson. "All sides of this issue can agree on the need to keep our roads safe."

Monte Whaley: 720-929-0907, mwhaley@denverpost.com or twitter.com/montewhaley —

More on marijuana in Colorado

Read more Denver Post coverage at its website The Cannabist. http://www.thecannabist.co/